Saturday, August 3, 2019

Kawartha Highlands: Anstruther - Serpentine - Rathbun Loop

We decided to explore the north-east corner of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park since we have never been to that section of the park. One of the things I like best about this park is that it is so close to home (about an hour and forty minutes) and it feels a lot like the more northern parks. Our goal was to leisurely do the Anstruther to Serpetine to Rathbun loop. We planned on five days so that we could take our time and enjoy the sites.

Day 1
We put in at the Anstruther Lake Access Point. It was very windy when we got there, and as you might have guessed the wind was blowing directly in our faces, which made fro a bit of a tricky launch. Once we were on the water things were great. The kids all did an amazing job of paddling in such a strong wind. They really dug in when we needed them to. I'm so impressed with their growth as paddlers over the years (Our six year old paddles like a veteran paddler). Since we were battling a strong head wind there was no time for pictures.

As we neared the first portage of the day, into Rathbun Lake, we spotted a bald eagle flying overhead. I find these birds absolutely majestic and am happy to see that they are making a come back. We got to the portage, unloaded and sorted out who was taking what on the portage. We blasted through the portage then when back to check out the waterfall. I love that our kids are so excited to see and explore waterfalls.

Climbing the Waterfall

Posing(?) at the Waterfall 

More Waterfall Climbing
We spent longer than we should have exploring the waterfall, but the kids were having a great time. We had lunch at the end of the portage and watched the streams of canoes making their way out of the park (it was Sunday afternoon).

The trip across Rathbun was quick and uneventful but the portage into Copper Lake was a little busy when we got there. Sarah was able to land her boat and get going on the portage. Shortly after she left a couple were putting their boat into the water, followed by a trio in a different canoe. Our older daughter and I waited on the water until the portage was clear. This portage also had a beautiful waterfall. We didn't stop, we just admired it in passing since it was getting late and we were getting tired. The portages for the day were short, but they were both steep uphills. From Anstruther Lake to Copper the elevation gain is about 45 m, over about 600 m. The Highlands part of the park name isn't just a cute name to invoke visions of beauty. They're called Highlands for good reason.

Once on Copper Lake we paddled to our site (235).

Copper Lake
The site was nice but the swimming wasn't great. The water was a bit swampy. That didn't stop us though. We found a path through the lily pads and swam out to some cleaner water. It was a hot day and were were all ready for a swim.

It's Amazing How Much Cooking the Kids Want to do When Fire is Involved

The Wind Finally Died Down
As we explored our site we were amazed by quantity and size of the blueberries. They were big, bright blue and they seemed to be everywhere. Blueberries would become a common site on the trip. We couldn't get over how many there were everywhere we went.

Day 2
Our goal for the second day was to get to Serpentine Lake. We had booked the island site (221) and were looking forward to a couple of days there. Our older daughter was convinced that we should take the short route via the 200m portage into Serpentine. The rest of us really wanted to go the long way through the marsh, into Anderson Lake the across the 610m portage into Serpentine.

As we were preparing to leave it started to rain. We found our rain coats and setup a tarp so that we could finish packing up. We waited a few minutes for the rain to stop. It slowed to a very light drizzle so we headed out and as it turns out it didn't take long for it to stop raining. We made our way to the marsh leading into Anderson Lake. It didn't look like this root was very well traveled. It was a real challenge trying to determine which way to go and there was some tough slugging in some sections as we maneuvered through the mud, grass, etc.
This Might be the Right Way!
After much meandering we made it to Anderson Lake. It's a small lake with only two campsites on it. I imagine it's a very peaceful lake to stay on. We didn't see anyone else while we were there. We found the portage easily, but it was a bit of a challenge to get to.
Almost at the Portage
 There was a shallow muddy path leading to the portage. Most of us ended up with wet feet getting to solid ground.
End of the Line
The portage was wet, as a result of the rain and our younger daughter slipped going up a steep rock. She was frustrated about not being able to make it up the rock but was unhurt. We spent a short time regrouping (did I mention there were lots of mosquitoes and deer flies?) and everyone was on their way again. Unfortunately, there was no relief from the bugs at the other end of the portage since it was a bit marshy there as well. We got on the water and paddled to a more open part of the lake to get away from the bugs then had a snack. Everyone was in good spirits as we paddled to our site. It was still overcast but the temperature was rising. We made it to the island and setup camp. As we did so the sun came out and invited us for a swim. The water was nice. Our six year old daughter decided that she wanted to swim to the mainland. She didn't tell anyone this was her plan, she just started swimming. As we tried to get her to swim back towards the island we realized what she was up to, so we all swam to the nearest shore (a rocky point). It was a picture perfect afternoon and evening.

We were treated a beautiful sunset and went to bed shortly there after.

Incredible Sunset
Day 3
This was a rest day for us. We woke up and leisurely cooked pancakes over the fire. After breakfast we headed off to explore. Our son and I wanted to explore the creek near the 200 m portage. We paddled a short distance and discovered it was all dried up. It was an interesting creek because it looked like it had cut right through the rock, creating rock walls on both sides of us.

Time to Explore on Foot 
All Dried Up

I Guess This is Why There is a Portage
After we finished exploring the creek we went to catch up to the others. They were going to paddle over to a small island not far from the one we were staying on, check it out and possibly go for a swim. It was warming up nicely so we all spent some time in the water cooling off.

Approaching the Tiny Island

Jumping In!
Our son and I headed back to our site to pick up our fishing gear to see if we could catch something for lunch. We didn't get any bites so we headed back for lunch. We spent much of the afternoon hanging around the site, reading, improving our knot tying skills and just generally being lazy. We did some more fishing late in the afternoon and caught a couple of small fish. We decided it would be best to let them grow some more so we put them back.

Knot Tying in the Hammock (Along With Some Silliness)

Leave it to the 6 Year Old to Turn a Hammock Into a Swing

Great Spot for Story Time

Another Great Spot for Reading
 After dinner and getting everything cleaned up, I headed out for a paddle while the others chose to do some more reading. There were fish jumping everywhere. It was amazing. On my way back I spotted a bald eagle that flew right past the island we were staying on. I wasn't the only one who spotted it. The two loons on the lake (one on either end) were giving out their warning calls.

Another Great Sunset
Day 4
Today wasn't meant to be a long day distance wise. The plan was to paddle to the portage from Serpentine to North Rathbun, do the portage, paddle across North Rathbun, down the creek and then do the short portage into Rathbun.

Headed for the Portage
 The only hiccup with the plan for the day might be the 1415m portage from Serpentine into North Rathbun. This would be the longest portage we've done (other than on day trips when we didn't have much stuff). It started with a very steep uphill section and finished with a long gradual downhill. I got everyone setup to go, then set them on their way and then carried the rest of our stuff along the first 150m of the trail to get to the top of the hill. I eventually caught up to our older daughter who had stopped (about 600 m from the end) to battle some of the bugs that had been following her. I didn't meet the other kids until the end of the portage. They had no troubles at all (other than the bugs, but there was a strong breeze at the end of the portage that was helping). Sarah and I went back for the rest of the stuff and finished in good time. It felt good to get on the water again. We had lunch in the canoes, letting the wind blow us where it wanted to. We took some time to explore the marshy area between campsites 211 and 212 but discovered that the water was quite shallow and muddy. We backed out quickly for fear of getting stuck. We also spent a few minutes looking for the remains of a tramway in the area, but we had no luck locating them. North Rathbun is a beautiful lake (our older daughter pointed out that I said that about most of the lakes that we visited).

The rest of the journey was easy and uneventful. It was getting very hot again and we were all looking forward to cooling off in the lake. The water was so refreshing. 

After swimming we did some fishing. We had a few bites but didn't catch anything until we tried again later in the evening. Again all the fish we caught were small.

Site 202 From the Water

Another Incredible Sunset
Day 5
We had a slow start to the day. We slept in and we were in no hurry to get going. While we packed up we were visited by the wardens again. This was the third time in five days our permit was checked. We figure that's more than all other trips combined. It's great to see such a strong presence in the park.

The paddle to the portage into Anstruther was easy as was the portage. Our youngest daughter wanted to visit the waterfall again so we did that then got on the water. We had lunch on the water and made our way back to the access point.

We had an incredible five days out in the wilderness. It's so nice to be able to spend so much quality time as a family exploring and challenging ourselves. The only thing left to do was to bask in our bug bites, sore muscles and long lasting memories. 

Until next time Kawartha Highlands!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Family Day Weekend In Algonquin

I'm pretty sure that Family Day is now my favourite holiday of the year. It's not commercialized (yet) and there's no reason to do anything but spend time with the family. This year I decided to take the Thursday and Friday before the weekend off so that we could have a five day winter camping trip in Algonquin Park.

We were all loaded up and ready to go Thursday morning and as we went to leave we discovered that our van would not start. It turns out the starter motor needed to be replaced. Eventually, we got it started but thought we should get it fixed before heading out. Fortunately, the shop would be able to fix it that day but not until 2:00 in the afternoon. This wouldn't leave us enough time to get to the park and setup before the sun went down. The kids were bummed that we would miss a day of camping. While we waited to have the van fixed we tossed around the idea of spending the night closer to the park so that we could be there early in the morning. At some point one of us suggested that we should see if there was a yurt available in the park. With a yurt we'd be able to arrive in the dark, get our sleeping bags out, spend the night then setup our tent in the morning. Sure enough there were a couple of yurts available. We booked one and headed for the park as soon as the van was ready.

We arrived around 8:30 after stopping at Just For the Halibut in Bancroft for a Valentine's Day dinner. I can't remember the last time we went out for dinner on Valentine's Day. Within two minutes of our arrival at the yurt the warden, Harvey, stopped by to make sure we had everything we needed. What great service.

We had an uneventful night in the yurt. Friday morning we setup our tent and vacated the yurt. The kids had a blast playing in the snow. We haven't had much snow at home this winter so to experience close to a metre on the ground was so much fun.

All Set Up!

Perched in a Tree

After lunch we decided to go snowshoeing. There had been about 15 cm of fresh snow overnight, which would make for some fun snowshoeing. We couldn't get over how deep the snow was. Even in our snowshoes, stepping off the hard packed trail resulted in us sinking into the snow up to our knees. We had found winter and couldn't be more excited.

Hard Work

Having a Good Time

Such Beauty
Break Time
After snowshoeing the kids wanted to head to the rink to do some skating. We stayed there for the rest of the afternoon. I'm always amazed at how much better they get at skating. I guess it's no surprise given how much time they spend on the ice.

Saturday we decided to head to the Leaf Lake Ski Trail. Our goal was to ski the Jack Rabbit Loop (5 km) and have lunch at Dee's Cabin. I figured we'd all be able to make it, except for maybe our five year old. Given that the trail was one way, we really didn't have a choice. We did all eventually make it to the cabin where we had a nice lunch while we chatted with the other visitors. We had a very enjoyable ski back to the parking lot. The trail was absolutely beautiful. The trees were all covered with snow and the forest was gorgeous. The skiing was the highlight of the trip for me.

After our a great ski we headed back to the campground. I wanted to wander around the campground to check out the Winter in the Wild demonstrations but the kids were keen to play in the snow. They played in the snow while we took care of some chores.

Sunday morning our son and I went back to the ski trails and this time we skied the Leaf Lake Loop. It was a much faster ski with just the two of us. It was just as beautiful though.

Beautiful Day

All Alone  

Dee's Cabin

Going Down
After our ski we had lunch then we headed for the rink, where we would spend the rest of the afternoon.

Having a Great Time

Hold On Tight

Clean Up Time
We had planned to leave early(ish) on Monday. Once at home we would need to unpack and I had a bunch of work to do. We pack up our things in the tent. The kids headed for the rink and skated while Sarah and I took down the tent and got the  vehicles loaded up. They had a great time with the rink mostly to themselves.  Once Sarah and I finished packing up We headed to the rink and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine while the kids skated. We were in no rush at all! We slowly had lunch and cleaned up. Finally at about 2:30 we were ready to leave.

We had an amazing trip. It was nice to find winter. Trips like this always make me think that we should move further north so we can experience winter more regularly.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Finally Back to Frontenac Provincial Park

Frontenac Provincial Park is located 45 minutes north of Kingston and is an easy drive for us. We haven’t done a canoe trip there for a long time. In fact, our youngest daughter hadn’t been born the last time did one. We wanted to go on a fun camping trip with some family so we chose Frontenac. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it so we went by ourselves.

Frontenac is a beautiful park and every time we go I think we should spend more time there. I must admit that I’m not a fan of the clusters of sites at Frontenac, but it wasn’t as bad as I was thinking it would be.

We left on a Friday. The goal was to paddle up Big Salmon Lake to the portage into Little Clear Lake, do the portage and make our way to the campsite cluster on Little Clear. Our site was 9a. It turned out to be a great site. The only downside was that the access to the water wasn’t super easy.

We arrived at the park just before lunch on Friday. We picked up our permits at the park office then headed to the Big Salmon Lake launch. We unloaded all of our stuff then had a quick lunch at the boat launch before heading out.

It was a beautiful sunny day with the wind that would push us along. I paddled with our two daughters in the yellow canoe and Sarah paddled with our son in the red canoe. The girls and I were a little ahead so we decided to paddle around a small island. As it turns out it wasn’t an island at all, but rather a long narrow point. If we’d had the map we would have been able to tell, but it was in the other canoe. Frontenac is probably the only park that we only have one map for. It made for a nice detour. By the time we came out of the bay (on the North side of the lake) the other canoe was way ahead. That didn’t stop us from crossing the lake to the south side so that we could paddle under the overhanging rocks. Very rarely do I paddle this lake without going under the rocks. It’s such a cool formation. It was a fair bit cooler under the rock and we saw a bird's nest along with some raspberries on the rock ledges.  
Overhanging Rocks

After visiting the overhanging rocks we made a solid push to catch up to the red canoe. We caught up a little bit before the portage into Little Clear Lake. Sarah and our son had a good chuckle when we told them we thought were going around an island. They had obviously looked at the map and knew we were headed to a dead end.

Almost Caught Up

We made it to the 970 m portage, had a quick drink and were on our way. I made sure everyone got off with a load then grabbed our barrel and the canoe. The kids stopped after a couple of hundred metres for a rest and to shuffle who was carrying what. I passed them and thought it would be a while before I saw them again. When I made it to the end of the portage I unloaded and headed back. Within a minute all three kids were coming around the corner. I was blown away by how fast they had covered the portage.

While the kids were waiting for us to return at the end of the portage they had some snacks. They must have finished them because nobody offered me any upon my arrival. Once the canoes were in the water we rafted up and paddled most of the way to our site together. One of the nice things about Frontenac is that it doesn’t take long to get far enough into the park to feel secluded. Our entire trip took about two and a half hours and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

Rafted Up
Upon arriving at our site Sarah and I setup the tents while the kids had a swim. We discovered the cool food storage bins that have been installed at all of the sites in Frontenac. It was so handy to be able to throw the food into the box and not have to worry about it. It was great that the kids would be able to retrieve food as needed.  

A Tight Squeeze on the Tent Pad
Food Storage Bin
Hanging Out in the Hammock
It’s been a really dry summer and while we planned for the trip we figured that there might be a fire ban in place so we planned to do all of our cooking on the stove. As it turns out there was only a partial fire ban in place. We were allowed to have fires from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. We came prepared to cook all of our meals on our stove and that’s what we did. In cooking our dinner we realized that it has been a long time since we have actually used a gas stove in the backcountry. Our go-to stove is a stick stove.

Haven't Cooked Like This For a Long Time!
You Can't See Me
Our son wanted to fish after dinner so we paddled out to the island on the lake and fished. He caught a good sized smallmouth bass and eventually I caught a small one. I guess we should have fished before dinner.
First Catch of the Trip

It did start to rain in the night which is when I realized that the new fly for our tent needed to be seam sealed. It wasn’t a big deal, but through the window in the top of the tent I could see drops forming perfectly along the seams.

The second day of our trip was meant to be spent hanging around the site and exploring the lake if anyone was up to it. Our son wanted to fish more (he was keen to catch some lunch) so we headed out and fished. The girls played in the hammocks and around the site as Sarah had a relaxing morning of reading in one of the hammocks.

We had some lunch then went for a swim. As part of the swim I thought it would a good time if the kids figured out how to get in the canoe from the water and how to jump out of the canoe without tipping it (We haven’t practiced a canoe over canoe rescue yet but we probably should). The kids and I got into the canoe and paddled into the lake. Our older daughter wanted to jump out first. She jumped out without any thought about what might happen. She ended up in the water, as did the rest of us. The dunking was a good experience for all of us, especially our youngest daughter. We brought the canoe back to shore, emptied it out and talked a little about the physics of jumping out and getting back into the canoe. We spent much of the rest of the afternoon jumping out of the boat and getting back in. We had a blast.

The Kids Exploring the Water

We came back to shore and got changed. Most of us were happy to relax for a bit, either lying in the hammock or reading. Our son decided that he would fish from the shore. He tried for a bit without much luck. He was about ready to give up but decided to cast one more time. Then we all heard, “I got one!”. He saw the fish jump and by the time I got to the water he wasn’t sure he had a fish anymore. He said it felt like he was caught in the weeds. He kept reeling in and discovered he had a huge largemouth bass. I helped him land the fish, we took some photos and then I went off to clean it. While cleaning the fish I decided that I needed more practice. I guess we’d better catch more fish.

Biggest Catch of the Trip
When I returned to our site with the fillets we figured it would be best to cook the fish over an open fire rather than on the stove. We waited until 6:00 then made a small fire to cook the fish. It was delicious. Cooking it over the fire was certainly the right thing to do. As we ate the sky looked a little threatening. We were prepared to retreat to under a tarp we had setup but it wasn’t necessary. It turns out the clouds blew right past us.  

Fresh Fish Over the Fire
A Millipede Friend
A Beautiful Evening
Amazing Sunset
The next morning was sunny and calm. I went for a short paddle and brought back some water. We had some breakfast and began packing up. While we packed up the girls played and our son fished and helped pack up. While our son was by the water he noticed a large snake along the shore it turned out to be a beautiful gray ratsnake (formerly known as the black ratsnake). It’s been a long time since we’ve seen one of these beautiful creatures.

We left our site around 10:00. It was quite warm and the air was very still. It was going to be a very hot day. We leisurely paddled the lake and covered the portage quickly. When we were done the portage we had a great swim. The water was so clear and refreshing. We had lunch at the portage and kids tried fishing for a bit. It was a hot paddle back to the access point. Our son got hot enough that he decided to jump out of the canoe to cool off. He managed to get out and back in without upsetting the canoe.

Blasting Through the Portage
All Loaded Up

So Refreshing

Beautiful Day on Big Salmon

Couldn't Ask For Better Swimming Weather

After Lunch Fishing

More Fishing

Off Again

Man Overboard!

Checking Out the Rocks

Break Time
We made it back to the access point. The kids were so hot they wanted to swim. The water is a bit swampy at the dock but that didn’t stop the kids from swimming. After a bit of shenanigans that included a sandal stuck in the mud and a knee split open on the gravel parking lot, we were ready to go. Although the trip was short we had a great time. We will be back.